Countering recent criticism in the media from the PNG Energy Workers Association (PNGEWA) over structural realignments being implemented in PNG Power through its Refocus Initiative, PNG Power managing director, Mr. Flagon Bekker, has outlined that their expressed fears were in fact groundless.
Mr. Bekker stated, “I fully understand why the union might be concerned that its members will be disadvantaged by the possible changes that have been flagged in discussions held about reform and refocus of PNG Power.”
Mr. Bekker advised that there is regular communication between PNG Power Management and PNGEWA through the Employee Consultative Committee (ECC).
Since late 2020, ECC meetings have been held monthly, where PPL matters have been discussed in close consultation with the union.
Union concerns have not gone unheeded and are addressed mutually. Management had reviewed shift work arrangements and recently approved CPI salary increases for 2019 and 2020 retrospective back pay.
The current concerns raised by the Union were subject of a recent committee discussion, agreeing that a presentation be made to union executives on the Refocus Initiative.
“I want the Union executives to appreciate the refocus initiative for their members benefit. It is unfortunate that the executives have gone to the media with their concerns, potentially impacting a meaningful avenue for mutual discussion.”
“PNG Power is just one of the State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) that the Government, through the NEC decisions NG129/2019 and 104/2020, is committed to reform to improve its service delivery and financial returns.
Our Refocus activities are part of these reforms, which will necessarily result in changes throughout the organisation.
SOE reform actions will enable PNG to continue to draw down support funds from the ADB and other international developmental agencies.”
“The most important point is that the changes being envisaged at PPL will in fact result in more jobs, not less.
PPL management and the Board see the Union as a valuable partner – partner in meeting the goal of giving at least 70% of the PNG population access to electricity,” he added.
Mr Bekker noted that as with any SOE, any structural changes would have to be approved by the PNG Power Board, Kumul Consolidated Holdings, the SOE Minister and NEC before any implementation and that in PNG Power, due process would always be followed.
In explaining the PNG Power Refocus Strategy, he noted that, “this will retain and increase the number of employees. We have already added positions to our current structure.
We will work with the Union to achieve this and the starting point is the PPL Refocus Strategy. This will drive the customer orientation change in our culture.
It will put the right people in the right places, nationally, putting our customer needs first.”
“As I have said in many Town Hall meetings with PNG Power staff, we have many challenges to overcome.
Retail electricity tariffs were frozen in 2013, so that although all our costs have risen annually with CPI, our income unfortunately has not.
We are also owed a huge amount of money by Government departments.
Past years lack of maintenance is causing disruptive blackouts. We all have to work together to overcome these.”
Mr Bekker explained further, “Worldwide and in the region, electricity markets have transformed to achieve greater good for country economies.
PNG Power assets have great potential to create revenue streams and maximise their utilisation to achieve efficient delivery of electricity services. We must look at the best options to achieve this.”
“Reform is inevitable for the power sector in PNG as it has been and continues to be across the globe.
PNG is not unique. Reform will consist of a measured, step by step approach by PPL and the other market participants.
It will mean lower power prices for the people of PNG through transparent, competitive investment and operating processes in generation, transmission and distribution and retail business units. Reform is about change.
Change for a better stronger and more sustainable sector.”
He noted that after the recent passing of enabling legislation, the forthcoming establishment of the National Energy Authority (NEA) will result in the transfer of regulatory functions from PNG Power and ICCC to that body.
He emphasised that PNG Power cannot act as a regulator and an industry player at the same time, that it could not be the referee and player and the 3’d umpire.
It must now behave in a more commercial manner to implement the programmes necessary to achieve the Government’s electrification agenda.
Mr Bekker noted that a future commercial model would see PNG Power become a competitive player in the market while the single buyer will be responsible for power requirements in electricity grids in the country.
“I want all PNG Power staff to understand the vision that we have for the organisation and its important role in achieving the goals of the Government; this requires that we must act in a commercial manner, especially in dealing with donors and investment parties.”
“We should not be afraid of change; we must all embrace it.”